The cell-penetrating peptide, Pep-1, has activity against intracellular chlamydial growth but not extracellular forms of Chlamydia trachomatis

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ObjectivesIn the course of studies to identify novel treatment strategies against the pathogenic bacterium, Chlamydia, we tested the carrier peptide, Pep-1, for activity against an intracellular infection.MethodsUsing a cell culture model of Chlamydia trachomatis infection, the effect of Pep-1 was measured by incubating the peptide with extracellular chlamydiae prior to infection, or by adding Pep-1 to the medium at varying times after infection, and assaying for inhibition of inclusion formation.ResultsPep-1 had a concentration-dependent effect on chlamydial growth with 100% inhibition of inclusion formation at 8 mg/L peptide. There was a window of susceptibility during the chlamydial developmental cycle with a maximal effect when treatment was begun within 12 h of infection. Pep-1 treatment caused a severe reduction in the production of infectious progeny even when started later, when the effect on inclusion formation was minimal. Furthermore, electron micrographs showed a paucity of progeny elementary bodies (EBs) in the inclusion. In contrast, pre-incubation of EBs with Pep-1 prior to infection did not affect inclusion formation. Taken together, these findings indicate that the antichlamydial effect was specific for the intracellular stage of chlamydial infection. By comparison, Pep-1 had no antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus or the obligate intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii.ConclusionsPep-1 has antichlamydial activity by preventing intracellular chlamydial growth and replication but has no effect on extracellular chlamydiae.

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